In the midst of a farm bill being finalized, labor is still top of mind for U.S. Congressman Ted Yoho. In mid-July, he visited AgNet Media to discuss imperative agricultural legislation.
There is currently a bill for agricultural labor, Rep. Goodlatte’s AG Act. Yoho says it’s a good bill and he could support it. However, he is pushing for his own piece of legislation.
The AG Act is an immigration bill that would create the H-2C program in place of the current H-2A program, among other things. According to Yoho, his bill is focused on a guest worker program for the agriculture industry only.
The overall goal of Yoho’s bill is to create a pool of workers already screened by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the U.S. Department of Agriculture can pull from when needed. “It allows people to prequalify to come into this country and work in ag only,” Yoho explains. This is intended to create a smooth process in which a grower can draw from that pool to get an adequate labor force, whether the work is needed all year or seasonally.
There is not a cap on the number of visas the government can provide in Yoho’s bill. The visa cap has been a point of contention with the AG Act.
Yoho’s bill would allow workers to be in the United States for five years at a time. They can also travel back and forth to their home countries. However, they must stay in agriculture. “If they get out of ag, they’re out of the program,” Yoho says.
As for those currently working in agriculture that are undocumented, the bill would have those workers screened by DHS, and then they would be part of the program. “It’s hard for these people to move anywhere because they’re afraid of being deported,” Yoho explains. “This (the bill) allows them to become of legal status in this country for five years at a time.”
Although the bill is in its beginning stages, Yoho says he is getting bipartisan support on it.
Hear more from Yoho:
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